Chicago

Funeral homes prepare for the worst as COVID-19 deaths surge

As the second main surge in COVID-19 instances and deaths takes maintain throughout the Chicago space, first responders and final responders alike are feeling the warmth as soon as once more in a tumultuous 12 months.

Nationwide, Black and Brown residents are 2.8 occasions extra prone to die from COVID-19. Funeral homes in these communities had been hit particularly exhausting this spring, and are getting ready for the worst once more.

Leak and Sons Funeral Homes has been in enterprise for 87 years, and practically referred to as it quits final spring as the virus unfold. Nine months later, the enterprise has all their workers on board working more durable than ever to serve the hardest hit by COVID-19.

“Every time the Governor would come on with his daily press conference, we would wait for the number of deaths for the day,” Spencer Leak Jr. mentioned.

The third-generation Leak runs his grandfather’s funeral residence, and regardless of over 87 years of the enterprise serving Black communities, this previous spring felt solely totally different.

“We’ve been in business 87 years. But it’s like we’ve been in business for two weeks,” Leak Jr. mentioned.

He mentioned calls began coming in additional than regular once more roughly two weeks in the past, and seems like the funeral house is preparing for fight.

“Our phones needed to be manned. Our funeral directors who make the removals need to be well rested because they were gonna have a busy day ahead of them,” Leak Jr. mentioned.

Leak Jr. added that his enterprise wanted to purchase new automobiles this 12 months to accommodate the variety of households Leak and Sons has served.

The residence’s refrigeration unit additionally had its capability tripled. Before the pandemic, it may maintain 40 our bodies without delay. Now, the unit can maintain as much as 120 our bodies at a time. Leak and Sons has additionally added safety to assist with crowd management, limiting capability to 10 folks or much less.

Prior to the pandemic, funerals had been usually reserved for Saturdays solely. In 2020, Leak and Sons is holding a mean of 16 funerals every Saturday, along with 12 providers a day the remainder of the week.

For Spencer Leak Jr., it has made day by day really feel like a Saturday.

“I go home, I can’t be near my wife, I can’t be near my children, we’re in the kitchen together. My wife is on one side, my daughters on another and my son is in the basement. This is the first time in 51 years that I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my parents,” Leak Jr. mentioned.

His 83-year-old father is his greatest pal. The two converse every morning earlier than they begin their day, together with his dad reminding Leak Jr. of the household mission, encouraging him to press on in the most attempting of occasions.

“We have to be ready to serve our families. God gave us this business and we have to be ready to serve his people,” Leak Jr. mentioned.

For the Leak household, information of a vaccine on the manner is holding them going as they keep busy serving communities seeing the most loss.

Until then, they are going to proceed to work at a tempo they might have by no means imagined, far exceeding the 2,000 funerals they might host in a typical 12 months.

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